Who Signs off the Detail Design? - Having fun with the waterfall process

Being risk averse, un-agile and tragically unhip, my workplace labours under a ‘Project Delivery Framework’, essentially a formalised waterfall process attached to a clunky document workflow solution.

Recently, while reviewing a detail design document, an interesting point was raised :-

Who should sign off the Detail Design document? The first and most obvious answer was the AD Manager. He has to sign off that the design is ‘doable’, robust, fits with and re-uses existing architecture.

The Information risk manager needs to ensure that the solution correctly handles things like passwords and encryption, he is also a no-brainer for signoff.

Beyond that it got a bit sticky. Should the BA sign it off?, the business SME? the project sponsor? What do these guys get out of such a document? The traditional response to this is as follows.. Somebody needs to ensure that the design and scope of the solution covers all elements of the detailed requirements. After all, what you want to avoid is the nightmare scenario where you deliver the product and then realise that it doesn’t do something it should.

So I think, in the end, the non technical types do need to sign off this document but it should be very clear what that means. They are not signing off that the design is technically correct, they are not signing off that the solution is a credible answer to the delicate balance of performance, complexity and robustness. They are signing off that the proposed solution meets requirements. clearly also if you can structure the document so that it makes this relationship very clear (eg. ‘Requirement X is covered by feature 1’) then you are 90% out of trouble. Of course, an agile process handles this whole conundrum a lot more elegantly and realistically but thats another story :)


Michael Dausmann

Full stack developer. Agile, Data science and Machine Learning. Love learning, speaking and dad jokes. Tweets are my own.